SOBER

Nancy Carr's Last Call

Life is beautiful.  Messy, but beautiful.  I've been super busy with my regular 9-5 but also with The Sobriety Collective's efforts and with my own goals of helping our joint cause.  More details on that to come.  Point being, Nancy sent me her story in late May--yes, May!  And I thank her for her never-ending well of patience.  I'm so thrilled to bring her tale of resilience to you and I'm super excited to read her memoir!  Yay for new additions to my Kindle!  

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Nancy living life--not drunk here!

I got drunk for the first time at age 13 at a teenage drinking party in Avalon, NJ.  There was a large punch bowl filled with grain alcohol jungle juice and I was eager to try alcohol, as it was a constant in our household growing up.  I wanted to be cool and I wanted to fit in.   But it was never the taste that made me chase it, it was the alcohol buzz.  The effect that it produced was one that I loved and craved. Then, when I tried cocaine at age 16 for the first time and that combination together, it was like BAM! I’ve arrived! Within a few years I was dating a drug dealer and my usage increased.  My 20s were a bit of a blur and wild, but by 30 I had become a “recreational” weekend cocaine user and a daily drinker. I also had a thriving career so I was considered a high-functioning alcoholic.  I was able to make my weekend drug use and daily drinking work within my lifestyle as I only hung out with others that drank and used the way I did.  I thought I was a typical “party girl” and weekend warrior.  By 32, I had racked up my first DUI.  I also moved over 22 times during these years and kept jobs for 3-4 years until I knew they’d find me out.  I was able to maintain pretty well.  But I knew I had a problem, I just didn’t really care.  Alcohol and cocaine were the two things that made me feel normal and happiest. 

In November 2003, I was drunk and typing in my journal about how messed up my life was.  I knew I needed help, but I was too scared to ask anyone.  A few months later, at age 37, I received my 2nd DUI in San Diego – a town I had been living in for the past few years – and sitting in that jail cell for 11 hours really made me think that I needed to do something different.  In May 2004, I walked into an AA meeting.  I left that meeting and quicker than you can say alcoholic, I went out and drank for a week – during that week I had my moment of clarity.  My first real A-HA moment; I realized that everything bad that had ever happened to me during my life was from drinking and drugging.  I may want to give the sobriety thing a try.  So, that’s what I did.  I had heard Hope in that first meeting and I clung onto that hope and walked into recovery with complete blind faith.  I had no idea what to expect as I knew nothing about sobriety.   I got sober the AA way; 90 meetings in 90 days.  I got a sponsor, I worked the steps and I did what the woman in recovery told me to do.  I didn’t want anyone in my family or corporate life to know what I was doing, so treatment wasn’t an option for me.   I’m grateful I got sober the way I did and I’m so appreciative of the Fellowship where I got sober.  I wouldn’t change a thing.  AA doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s just what worked for me.

I’ve been able to live life today free from the bondage of alcohol and drugs.  I don’t hang out in seedy places, I don’t get DUIs, I don’t wake up in stranger’s beds and I don’t have to wonder what happened the night before and who I pissed off.  I have been able to get married in recovery and share my journey with someone else who gets me and who is also in recovery.  I rescued my constant companion and dog, Lucy, and she brings me so much joy.   

I have been able to maintain and make new friendships – I get to live and participate in my life today.    The freedom I have today is just amazing and the fact that I get to live my life today without lying, manipulating, cheating and stealing is all just gravy to me.  I am just so happy that I don’t HAVE to drink today.  I am a strong supporter of AA and helping others and being of service.  I am grateful I don’t need a drink to manage my life and that I get to have choices today – healthy choices on who I want to be, not who alcohol and cocaine want me to be.   As Sir Elton John once said in an interview, “My biggest accomplishment in my life is getting sober, it’s not the Grammy’s, the money, being Knighted or how many records I’ve sold, it’s my sobriety!”

That drunken journal entry turned into a Memoir that I recently launched via Kindle, “Last Call, A Memoir”.  It’s a story of my experience, strength and hope.  My hope is that I can help someone - anyone - that may be able to relate to my life as a “social party girl” and realize that they too have a chance at a better life.   A life where they will be able to wake up in the morning and have dignity, integrity and self-love – because that’s what living a clean and sober life has given me. 

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Connect with Nancy.
Twitter: @NlcarrC
Blog: Last Call 2015

Buy Last Call, read,
rinse, repeat.

What AA Taught Me

I don’t love AA, but I don’t hate it either. 

Kind of a revolutionary statement to make considering the whole reason I started The Sobriety Collective was to have a place where people who found sobriety and recovery in any way, shape, or form, could congregate.  With close to eight years of continuous sobriety, I have long-term recovery I never imagined possible--most of which I achieved outside of "the rooms."  But I did learn from the program. 

I came into the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous not by choice, but by “force.” 

The intensive outpatient rehab I checked myself into stipulated 15 hours of AA as a non-negotiable.  So of course, besides feeling like I had crawled out of my skin and landed on a foreign planet—and I’m not talking about the meeting here, I’m talking about that “newly sober and not sure what the hell is happening” feeling—I also didn’t want to be there. 

At the behest of my group counselor, I kept it up after I graduated from my five-week program and attempted, just attempted, to compare in instead of out (commonalities instead of differences).  I went back for all my sober month-aversaries and tried the whole finding a sponsor thing.  But it just wasn’t clicking.  Even though these people intimately understood what I had been through, I still felt so alien, so less than.  The underlying current in treatment was that 12-step programs were the only way to get/stay sober[1]. 

So I stopped going.  And before I knew it, I was coming up on three years sober.

I was already well into therapy for the underlying issues that I was self-medicating with alcohol (anxiety, OCD, panic attacks) and had cut ties with toxic people I was friends with in my drinking days.  I exercised more and had better relationships with my family.  But still, according to many of the very people I had met in the rooms, though, I wasn’t sober.  I was a “dry drunk” and “white knuckling” my way through life because I was one of those “unfortunates” who just didn’t get the program (words in quotations heard, verbatim, from people in meetings).  Maybe I should just pray on it, they said.  Call my sponsor.

yeah, about that. 

As proud as I felt of my sobriety, I still felt a chasm in my life.  I didn’t have a sober network and to say I was spiritual was a blatant overstatement.  So I went back…and found what would become my home group for the next 18 months.

Here are the top three lessons I learned from AA that I still apply to my life: 

1) Be of service.

(To my fellow human—alcoholics, addicts, alcohol abusers, heavy drinkers, anyone who seeks help, family, friends, the homeless, coworkers; hell, everyone.)

YES, I was an (imposter) AA-er!  I opened my mind.  I found a sponsor who I worked all 12 steps with, I called at least one woman a day, and I became a “meeting maker.”  I volunteered for service positions and really immersed myself into the meat of the program.  And for a while, it really was wonderful.  Because I finally had a sober network and was feeding myself spiritual nuggets in the form of eastern philosophies, books from the likes of Don Miguel Ruiz, and going on retreats with other women in AA.

With The Sobriety Collective, I feel like I’m continuing that strong belief in serving others.  Having this community helps me, and in helping myself, I help others.  In helping others, I help myself.

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2) Do my part, let go of the outcome, and check my ego at the door.

When I think back on my time in the program, the key takeaway I always return to is letting go of the outcome.  Learning to let go brought me to Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements.

Ruiz advocates not taking things personally.  Hello ego!  We’re not talking the whole “Woe is me, I’m so sensitive” way—ensue waterfall of tears.  It’s more about people doing things because of THEM, not because of YOU.  We all have our own interpretations of the world, but we should be careful not to impose our world on someone else’s world.   Easier said than done; trust me.  It takes constant practice.  For what it’s worth, I’m way over-sensitive [which I craftily call COMPASSION and EMPATHY] and I have to remind myself that I can’t expect someone to experience life the way I do, because I have my own unique perspective.  Yes, we may have shared experiences—but there is only one YOU.  *Special snowflake dance*

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3) Recovery is a process.

One day at a time.  Progress, not perfection.  It works if you work itLet go and let God.  They’re cheesy, but their roots are deep. Recovery is an ongoing journey and we’ll have roadblocks and detours and traffic cones to maneuver.  I feel immense gratitude that I’ve been continuously sober for almost 8 years—to me, sobriety means a) no relapses and b) a constant quest for self-betterment.   That doesn’t mean I haven’t had hiccups and done things that I wouldn’t categorize as “sober” behavior (old habits die hard—I’m talking about selfish behavior, not boozing).   But I keep reminding myself that I’m human, I make mistakes, I own up to my mistakes, and I keep moving.  Not to mention that my therapist is a godsend.  

As long as we’re making progress, that’s all we can ask for, right?

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After 18 months, I quietly said my goodbyes to AA.  It just wasn’t for me anymore.  It played its part, just like it taught me to always own my part and let go of the rest. 

I always heard I could take what I want and leave the rest, so I did.  And it brought me to where I am today.

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[1] This is a separate manifesto—which, thankfully, has been written numerous times (for example, here and here).  I’m not the only one who believes that inpatient/outpatient programs need to incorporate a variety of treatment options, to give patients exposure to more than just the twelve steps.  SMART recovery, Women in Recovery, yoga, mental health treatment (therapy, medication for conditions, and so on), animal/music/dance/art therapy, etc.